“The Venezuelan economy was a drunk floundering in a choppy ocean, struggling to stay afloat, begging for a life buoy,” Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan journalist, told me. “The Trump administration threw it a hammer instead. A hammer is no help at all. It’s heavy. It might make the drunk sink a bit faster. But you can’t put the hammer at the center of a narrative about why the drunk is drowning.”
Venezuela may now be sliding toward collapse and mass starvation, while fragmenting into local control by various armed groups. Outbreaks of malaria, diphtheria and measles are spreading, and infant mortality appears to have doubled since 2008.
Maduro’s response is unconscionable. He buys the loyalty of military officials with money or resources that could go for medicine, he refuses to accept some foreign aid and he bars entry by important international humanitarian organizations.
The best thing for the Venezuelan people would be a new government. But sanctions have failed to drive Maduro from power, inflicting anguish instead on vulnerable Venezuelans.